Cash services will no longer accept credit cards

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Credit card payments will no longer be accepted at the payment counter in University Cash Services, and individuals paying with a credit card online will now be charged a 2.9 percent fee starting June 20, in an effort to reduce university spending on credit card transactions.

The change will add the option of paying with an ATM/Debit card at Cash Services, but will eliminate the ability to pay with a credit card.

According to Robert Barker, university controller, the university will be going through a third-party vendor, CashNet SmartPay, to process all credit card payments over the Internet, which will charge a fee of 2.9 percent of the transaction value to the credit card.

When paying through the CSUN website, students will be able to use MasterCard, Discover or American Express, but will no longer be able to use Visa, due to Visa requirements that cannot be accommodated by SmartPay, Barker said.

When students make credit card payments, CSUN is charged a merchant fee, something the university has always paid for, but which is too expensive for the university to continue paying, Barker said.

Credit card merchant fees will reach almost $1 million for 2004-05, of which about $600,000 is paid for with money allocated through the state budget, Barker said.

The university is reimbursed for the remainder of the fees through self-support units, including housing, parking, the College of Extended Learning, and student meal plans, he said.

Making credit card payments has become more popular since its availability on the Internet, and in the past has had no cost to users at CSUN, Barker said.

“People that choose to pay with credit cards have no disincentive not to do so,” Barker said. “It’s a convenience and there’s no reason not to. But it has become very expensive.”

Ian Sayer, senior anthropology major, said the changes to the campus payment system do not make sense to him and said he is curious why this issue was not brought up sooner. He said students should have been notified months ago about the changes.

Jenny Tobias, senior psychology major, said she has paid with credit cards quite a few times in the last four years and does not feel the extra fee is fair.

“If the money is going to something good for the university, then I understand,” Tobias said. “But I’m sure we won’t see a penny of it.”

John Darakjy, assistant director of financial and tax services, said the convenience of web payments has increased the volume of users.

People are able to stay at home and do everything online, and since CSUN is a commuter school, the credit card fees have become an issue for the campus, Darakjy said.

“If you spend (money) on credit card fees, that’s money you can’t spend anywhere else,” Darakjy said.

It is only reasonable and fair that students who choose the credit card option to pay the fee that goes along with it, Darakjy said.

Based on information from other campuses that have this system, credit card usages do drop, and there will be plenty of other options available for students who do not wish to pay the credit card convenience fee, Darakjy said.

For Tobias, because of the changes to the payment system, she said she will no longer use her credit card for payments, but will instead use cash or check.

If students still choose to pay with a credit card, they will bare the cost rather than the university, Barker said.

The university will pay the cost for electronic payments made by e-check, which is about 10 cents per transaction, and for using debit cards, which is about 60 cents per transaction, Barker said.

This will accumulate to less than $30,000 annually that students will not be charged for, he said.

Aside from these changes, Barker said through SmartPay, students or parents of those students will gain the ability to designate what they pay for.

With the existing system, when a payment is made on the Internet, it goes toward a general fee without anyone really knowing where the money went, Barker said.

Under the new system, if a student or parent, for example, wants to specifically pay for housing, they will be allowed to do so and will be able to see the payment immediately, Barker said.

Darakjy said there has been and will continue to be a tremendous effort to make students aware of these changes.

There are many places students can go to find more information, such as the Student Services Building, Student Union, Matador Bookstore, Oviatt Library, and the CSUN website, Darakjy said.